30 January, 2012

Back-B-Log: Another Summer in Hell (1988)

[Author's Note: This brief memoir from 1988 is posted here as it is related to my story of my ongoing unintentional persecution by Richard O'Brien, which includes part of my summer of 1983 spent in the GCC Walnut Mall 1 2 3]


"I spent a lifetime in Philadelphia, one summer...."
                        -- W.C. Fields

How do I cope with Summer?  How do I survive?  I don't know... it seems that every summer calamities swarm around me like flies on shit in the sun.  My last decent summer was after I graduated from high-school. Since then the wisest thing to do is to pack off to hermitage at the first signs spring boiling over: late suns, final exams, and sticky tanning oil. 
Let's do a quick chronology:
1983 -- ended freshman year with 3 incompletes  nervous collapse due to my freshman obsession rejecting me, my psychotic girlfriend accepting me, and my father's most severe nosedive into Parkinsonism to date; lived in same house with woman who rejected me, destroying the remains of our friendship; worked slave wages/hours in movie theater with broken air conditioning; somehow finished incompletes and took Spanish credits to return to Penn in Fall
1984 -- tried living briefly with psychotic girlfiend who forbade me to contact my friends; worked 10 days as an encyclopedia salesman, then sold leather goods from a stand in a mall
1985 -- spend most of the summer trying to break up with psycho-bitch-monster instead of laboring on incompletes (5), after attempting to push me off a roof she breaks into my room and steals all my work, a restraining order is nearly issued, but her crank phone calls keep the receiver from its cradle every night
1986 -- after not graduating with eight incompletes under my belt, I am depressed by the seeming lack of prospects and all around hope for my future, but at least I stay employed, I begin living like a monk, seeing human beings only at work and other formal occasions
1987 -- the woman I've been obsessed with for ten years falls in love with one of my best friends, after I introduce them, he reciprocates, and my plans to move in with his brother and another friend remain unchanged (big mistake) this was a Summer that kept going until November. Along the way I manage to alienate or lose about half my friends, half my sleep and most of my sanity, but at least it's the first summer that I have an air-conditioner.

O.K., granted I made some mistakes, all of these Summers were spent in Philadelphia which was probably once one of God's early drafts for hell, abandoned because even the damned don't deserve this.  The smell of rotting garbage which spreads thickly evenly throughout the humid atmosphere; in Summer, air in Philadelphia isn't smooth, it's chunky.  Almost the only reason to get an underpaying job is to avoid being baked all day in the heat, but with an air-conditioned job your body will be assaulted by alternating freezing-burning temperatures which will probably have you enjoying the flu.  Philadelphia in Summer is the explanation for why you will find people wading through medical waste at the Jersey shore -- it's an improvement.
This summer has been par for the course.  I've been ill for months: weak, constant low grade fever, coughs, pains.  On top of which I over-extended myself, working forty-hours, twelve hours of class a week (not counting outside studying and work), and moving my parents on weekends.  This is not the way to do it. Here are some rules that everyone should follow during Summer (and I hope to -- next year – follow)

1.   After May 1st, do not trust anyone:

Case in point -- I took in a friend of a friend to sublet one of my housemate's rooms.  I didn't need to, would have been no financial or spiritual onus to me if I hadn't, but I felt sorry for them (beware this is never a good motivation, whatever the time of year). Step by step, what seemed to be a quiet suburban Catholic girl has turned into a drugged out kleptomaniac who expects me to clean up after her orgies (I stopped counting how many condom wrappers I've picked up off the couch).  I'm eating the rent and the utilities she hasn't paid (over $500).

2.   Do not visit your parents without mood altering drugs.

My parents are in a highly agitated state this Summer, they just moved from their house of forty years into a tiny apartment.  They are losing their minds, and when you stay with them, they share the experience. I've just spent a year hunting down and caging the demons I released last summer: "I don't need no more neuroses!"  If the drugs don't help you cope with your Parents (valium, psilocybin and lithium are recommended), you can always give them to your parents to allow them to cope with you.

3.   If you have any possessions, sell them, nail them down, or put them in storage -- they are not safe.

Yes, everything you may cherish, and even what you merely own and paid dearly for, will be threatened from all sides, by disturbed roommates, their spot-welding boyfriends, and even relatives (my sister stole a puppet from me).  Spy on your realtor, they will attempt to evict you while you are out of town (mine tried to rent my house without telling me).  People who you haven't seen for years will attempt to set fire to your home.
Which brings us to last but not least:

4.   Hide, or at least keep moving.

Sharks have survived and prospered during many a summer using this tactic.  You need not be ruthless like the shark, just lay low, real low. If you go abroad, go to a country where they haven't even heard of Americans yet so they haven't started hating us. Don't go to the shore, you'll drown.  If you stay inland, don't travel on freeways, you'll be slain in multiple car pile ups.  Don't ride the backroads, you'll be butchered by rednecks.  Don't go into the air, you'll be a statistic.   Stay out of the cities, you'll be killed by hordes of nomadic plague ridden yuppies: stay out of the country, animals wild from toxic wastes and PCP will eat you alive --  Face it, just stay away from SUMMER.  It's cursed, that's all there is to it.

(English 135 Advanced Expository Writing, Professor Cavallo, August 1, 1988, Assignment #6)

[Author's Note: To those of you disparaged directly or indirectly above, apologies.  I appreciate we've all grown up now, and, at least those of you whom I'm still in touch with, we turned out O.K.  Keep in mind this is the raw perspective of an undercooked youth.

Diana Cavallo's writing course was possibly the best I've taken, and I wish I'd taken her other writing courses as well.  Anything wrong with my writing sure ain't her fault.

It should be noted that the following Summer I did not take my own advice completely, I travelled to Britain to interview for the job that changed my life, and haven't stopped moving since.]

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27 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: Sods Law

In another pointless effort to further my arbitrary and pedantic campaign against the BAFTA's soft rule that allows films to be nominated before their actual release in the UK when the films under consideration are ostensibly those of the previous year, I've written to the BBC's weekly radio programme that focusses on film reviews, Kermode and Mayo's Film Review.  Mark Kermode is the resident film critic, and proceedings are kept grounded and entertaining for film geek and non-film-geek alike by radio presenter Simon Mayo.  Their double act occasionally leans too much on catch phrases and in jokes, but most of the time they fit in enough consideration of films on release, quality interviews with film makers, and genial banter/bicker to be time well spent (their podcast is amongst the top five BBC weekly podcasts with approx 600 thousand downloads per month).

The letter begins with a strange salutation which is the format used by most correspondents with the show, referring to the co-presenters as a pairing referencing film or other duos, or in this case a recent ongoing bicker from the fact that Kermode has said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not about spies, and Mayo feigns ignorance of the concept of subtext.  In a bid to get the letter some attention from the show's production staff I do make some mention of my extremely tenuous link to Mark Kermode as the letter explains.

Sent: 27 January 2012 15:07
Subject: BAFTA Challenge

Dear Spy vs Not About Spies,

I was disappointed last week to find little discussion of the BAFTA nominations, I assume that with the OSCAR nominations out that this might be relevant this week.  I have had an admittedly pedantic problem with the BAFTA rules which allow films to be nominated which are released after the primary year in question.  As pedantry is no stranger to your fine programmes airwaves, I'd like to raise this query.

I have some trepidation about asking this question as I'd like to stay the right side of the good Doctor as he is one of the founder / organizers of the New Forest Film Festival, for which I'm a volunteer, and whose 2011 Critic of the Year Award I was runner up for (over 18 category) with an entry Mark described as "worryingly good".  I may have already irked him with the bizarre suggestion of a "Battle of the Silent Film bands" for next year's fest (not doing myself any favours reminding 'im now).  Be that as it may, I proceed with the courage of my pedantic conviction.

Can you ask Mark, and indeed any other BAFTA members present, this simple question:

How can BAFTA justify nominating films released in the UK in 2012 for awards primarily for the films of 2011?

To my mind it only serves to
a) allow in films likely to nominated for OSCARs that were released in the US but not the UK in the year in question, this is so that BAFTA can claim relevance in the OSCAR's race between the Globes and the OSCARs.
b) pander to the distributors that can use the BAFTA's to boost films still currently on or imminently release(d).

My chief complaint is that the awards should be nominated and given to films that we the public have had a chance to see before the nominations come out, not merely those the members of BAFTA with the privileges of special screenings and screeener discs.

I have argued this point with some analysis over on my blog : http://vaguestideas.blogspot.com/ (with the tag BAFTA).  To give examples, this year's longlist had 20% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012, and 50% were for films on DVD release in the UK in the first quarter of 2012.  The actual nominations have 15% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012, and 50% were for films on DVD release in the UK in the first quarter of 2012.

I appreciate that these trends exhibit a chicken/egg causality as the distributors control release dates and are allowed to put forward films for nomination, and that, hopefully, in a future of simultaneous world wide multi format releases this may become moot.

Thanks for any comment my, possibly pointless, pedantry may illicit.

Brian Tarnoff (the second best middle aged amateur Film Critic in the New Forest -- 2011)

PS.  I will be joining the ranks of professional projectionists on February 10th on Mark's home turf in Brockenhurst with a screening of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, when I'm not keeping an eye on the focus, aspect and keystoning, I'll be trying to spot the Tinker and Tailors, as clearly there aren't any spies.

Unfortunately puppies, notes for NFA's Landscape Management Committee, and preparations for a part time job as a projectionist got the better of me.  So the email went out during the first half hour of the show.  I know that it's probably unlikely that the production staff are going to consider anything they don't see before the show, optimally earlier in the week, but I didn't want a whole other week to steal a march on the subject, so I dug in and sent it.

One of the more recent gambits by the producers of the show has beefed up their Facebook presence, they already do a lot on Twitter which I don't follow, and Mark Kermode has a BBC video blog site which I do.  The Facebook page engages with listeners requesting capsule reviews of top films, or the new releases the presenters themselves haven't seen, but also purely spurious threads to find puns with film titles.  So, sods law, within about five minutes of sending out my email a few lines from a comment I'd left about Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris got read out on air:

Midnight in Paris is merely a half decent Woody Allen film elevated by comparison to his last two decades of subpar dross. It's great that he has a little niche carved out for him to make what he wants as he wants as often as he can manage, but he really could have done better with people to say no to Match Point, Melinda and Melinda and Vicky Christina Barcelona, and those were supposedly the good ones....
If you look at some of his work with collaborators, they include some of his best. The trick that helps Midnight in Paris is that he has to use real characters from history rather than the paper thin ones he seems to originate.

Simon Mayo squeezes out half the words, trying on the fly to keep the sense, but drops my point about Woody doing much better work when he has more collaboration.  That's by the by, I didn't think that thread was going to be part of the show, and it seems even more unlikely, that now they've said my name already, that they'll give anything else I've sent them any airtime.  Ahh well.

The worst thing about this is that my sister in law happens to be listening and phones my wife who is luckily working from home today.  "Doesn't your husband have anything better to do than to get his name on a radio programme?" she chides jokingly.  On the strength of the above, I really hope I do.

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17 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: The Nominations

The BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Nominations for the 2012 Awards are out today.  I have been expressing dislike of the BAFTA rules which allow films to be nominated outside the year under consideration, often before their actual UK release.  The crux of my problem with this is that it cheats the UK public audience of the enjoyment of making up their own minds about the nominations and awards before they are handed out.

In the past few years my argument has focussed on the untidy language of the exception in the rules which created some contradictory circumstances when nominated films released two days before the award ceremony itself (and in some cases afterwards) could not have fulfilled one other condition that the films must be screened for seven consecutive days to a paying UK audience.  BAFTA have changed the exception and have removed this potential conflict with this simpler but more inclusive proviso:

If a film opens between 1 January and the Friday before the Awards in February then it may be eligible as long as it is screened to Academy voting members before a certain date.

To my mind it only serves to
a) allow in films likely to nominated for OSCARs that were released in the US but not the UK in the year in question, this is so that BAFTA can claim relevance in the OSCAR's race between the Golden Globes and the OSCARs.
b) pander to the distributors that can use the BAFTA's to boost films still currently or imminently on release.

Pretending relevance in the OSCAR's run up is absurd.  For one thing the timing of voting is too close to the parallel longlist runoffs for nominations for one to directly influence the other.  Also, look at just how few of the Hollywood based nominees actually turn up to the BAFTA's, you'll find they're mostly actors, who will normally be happy to have an excuse to pop to London, mecca of the stage.  Some of the actors are doubled for presenter duties during the awards themselves which pays for their jolly whether they win a BAFTA mask themselves or not.

Film UK release Nominations

The Iron Lady 06/01/2012 4

Shame 13/01/2012 2

War Horse 13/01/2012 5

Coriolanus 20/01/2012 1

J. Edgar 20/01/2012 0

The Descendants 27/01/2012 3

Carnage 05/02/2012 0

A Dangerous Method 10/02/2012 0

Young Adult 10/02/2012 0

In my previous analysis of the longlist 20% of the nominations for are for films released in the UK in 2012, and 50% were for films on DVD release in the UK in the first quarter of 2012. This does shift slightly in the actual nominations have 15% of the nominations for films released in the UK in 2012.  Significantly of the longlist movies under consideration, only five released in January 2012 have survived the cut, leaving one January and three due to be released in February on the heap (see 0 nominations above).  This may only be a reflection of the viewing opportunities for the BAFTA voters, as in the past few years films released up to 2 days before the ceremony have been nominated.

Looking at the trends there is a preponderance of nominations in the latter half of the year.  I appreciate that these trends exhibit a chicken/egg causality as the distributors control release dates and are allowed to put forward films for nomination, and that they in turn may be second guessing the voters long term memory loss and may stack more promising contenders.  It says little for the perceived (by either distributors or voters) quality of anything released before July.

In the future we may look forward to simultaneous world wide multi format releases.  This is argued by some as the best way to both combat piracy, and to give the audience the widest range of preferred viewing choices, whether they want to trek to their local multiplex or sit in the comfort of their home cinema.   This should render the argument moot, assuming that BAFTA then have the good grace to adjust their eligibility back to the proper calendar year.  If they still let late, on the heels of the ceremony, releases in through their current back door, then the collusion with the distributors which I've merely insinuated would be laid shamefully bare.

On the other hand once the pool of films becomes virtually the same as the OSCARs, how will the BAFTAs distinguish themselves?  Their members represent the British Film industry, which despite its ongoing identity crises, contains a vital amount of talent, knowledge and skills used by Hollywood and the film industry of the world.  Their awards should reflect both their British talent and the British audience.

For the time being, while the point is not yet moot, I will press on.  The BAFTA's can only be improved for the time being if they stop trying to be a "me, too" in the run up to the OSCAR's.  The nominations should reflect the UK release schedule, not the US.  Perhaps a move back to the pre 2000 date of early April for the Awards is in order, it would allow the BAFTA's a more distinctive voice, not muddled between the HFPA and AMPAS.  The members of BAFTA shouldn't need to be reminded that the B in BAFTA is for British.


12 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: On Some Other Blog

I am an irregular commenter on Mark Kermode's Kermode Uncut Blog, and I have been shoehorning in little bits of my rant against BAFTA's inclusion of Nominations for films not released in the UK at the time of Nomination, nor in the year under consideration.

Under his VLOG And The Nomination Isn't... Kermode bemoaned the Oscar's long list, particularly the exclusion of the amazing F1 documentary Senna.  This gave me a scintilla of an excuse to bemoan the BAFTA's as on their way to similar destination....
13. At 18:36 25th Nov 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

Sadly the way the Oscar's play out is very much a product of the PR machinery of the studios/distributors. You might as well blame Senna's production company for not pushing hard enough, not sending enough screeners and Senna themed trinkets (I thought the Formula 1™ 2011 Game, F1 2011 Dead Men's Curves add on pack that lets you replay play every fatality in F1 history was stretching the boundaries of taste, but those academy voters all have grandkids who love that stuff).

The Oscar's have been a lost cause, well, forever. I have a bone to pick with the Bafta's as they are headed in the same direction. This has mostly been since the Bafta's changed their rules and ceremony dates, in a bid for relevance between the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The rules have been bent to allow films which were eligible for Oscars, but haven't had a proper release in the UK the year before (there's a proviso that allows films "released" in the UK between Jan 1st up to 2 days before the BAFTA ceremony, to be nominated). A "release" constitutes 7 days in a single commercial cinema to paying customers which hardly encompasses the UK market, and as release dates are set in mud, some nominations have been for films that have openned neither small nor wide until after the ceremony (nominated Vicky Christina Barcelona had its date bumped until two weeks after the ceremony). Consequently the BAFTA nominations list consists almost entirely of films just on or about to be on general release, or about to have their DVD releases in the UK market. The fact that this is all orchestrated to chime with the Globes to Oscars buzz robs the BAFTA's of any distinction beyond the urbane wit lent by Mr Fry.

I would challenge all BAFTA members including Dr. K to sort this out, the BAFTA nominations should consist of films that the UK viewing public have had a decent chance to see before the ceremony, not just the members who have to fit in "viewings" or see films for their consideration as they may not have been meant to be seen on the flat screen with the lights on in a cluttered front room awash with pets and disaffected kids. The nominations should be relevant to the artists and the audience (us), not the distributors and the hacks. So please remove the BAFTA's as a pit stop between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, because the longer they sit there the more likely the industry will make them like BOTH, and nobody with any sense wants that.

I even got  a bit of support from a fellow poster:

15. At 18:44 25th Nov 2011, Scurra wrote:

@Brian: Yes, I have sometimes wondered whether it would be smart for Bafta to change tack entirely and have their award ceremony in September. Make the qualifying period July - June instead of the calendar year - after all, it's not as though the year of release matters that much. And it might influence the release dates a little too...

I replied:

35. At 02:21 28th Nov 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

@Scurra, I'm not that bothered about BAFTA using the calendar year, it's that they add provisos for films past that year to include films that were out in the States and most likely nominated for Oscars, but which weren't released in the UK in that year. However your suggestion might be a way to shake it up. They should pick 12 months and stick to it.

Sorry if my annual BAFTA annoyance is a bit off topic. [...]

Under Kermode's VLOG Looking Forward he asked us which films we are looking forward to in 2012, which gave me an opportunity to get in a slight dig:

27. At 17:40 30th Dec 2011, Brian - New Forest wrote:

Although I'm looking forward to Prometheus as well, I'd counter the list of good Ridley efforts cited above with:

GI Jane
Matchstick Men
Robin Hood

As the latter was pretty egregious, I'd withhold my expectations.

Also, to pedantically bang my drum to anyone who'd listen (or not as the case may be), I won't be at all surprised to see some of these upcoming films featured in the BAFTA's although they have not been released in this year. BAFTA has a proviso that exists solely so they may nominate films that have been nominated for Oscar's but which haven't been given a proper release to the UK viewing public. All it serves is to lamely suggest relevance for the BAFTA's between the Golden Globes and the Oscar's and a chance for distributors to push UK release dates of nominated films closer to the BAFTA ceremony, as films are eligible for nomination if their scheduled release is up to two days before the awards ceremony itself. (anyone interested in following the progress of my so far tractionless rant may google "my annual bafta annoyance").

Mindless pedantry aside, my heart's true anticipation can only be expressed by a red mop-faced drummer named Animal:

Muppets! MUPPETS! M U P P E T S!

(Given the claims of Fox News of political indoctrination, perhaps this is the real Film Socialisme. Unfortunately, that title had already been used.)

Under Kermode's VLOG Eleven From Eleven, he asks us to suggest which of his top 11 from 2011 he should jetison in favour of including the splendid Drive.  While I earlier posted a comment that he should dump We Need To Talk About Kevin, which had left me cold (#15),  after seeing comments posted complaining about the release date of The Artist in relation to the list, I wrote:
86. At 04:58 9th Jan 2012, Brian - New Forest wrote:

@22, 41, 45-- you've made me change my mind. Dr. K should leave out The Artist, not because it isn't the fine film that so many who have seen it claim it to be (and frankly though I've not seen it, the trailer had me enraptured, will need to suitably adjust expectations before I see it when it comes round our neck of the woods Feb 20th), but for the pedantic reason you cite, it is simply not a 2011 release for the ordinary UK punter.

This is one of the reasons that I try to have a go at the BAFTA's every year for having rules which allow films not released in the calendar year in question. Now I would never level charges of elitism at Dr. K, but BAFTA has graced 9 films to be released theatrically in 2012 with nominations on their longlist (out of 65 films). These are films which the BAFTA members have had a chance to see, but not the UK public (barring festival and "platform" release screenings). These 9 films rack up 56 nominations which is just over 20% of the 279 longlist nominations. 2 of them are released just 2 days before the 12th February Awards Ceremony. 50% of the nominations are for films which will be released on DVD in Q1 2012. Sadly this makes the BAFTA's look like a cynical marketing exercise poised irrelevantly betwixt the Globes and the Oscars. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change when the longlist gets whittled down.

As for the critics end of year lists, well, if it's their own personal list of the films that they have happened to see in that year, then fine, can't argue with that. But by that token why consider release dates at all? Due to caring for a litter of puppies causing cabin fever isolation and temporary exile from the cinema, I caught up on a number of titles I missed from previous years, and I can say that amongst my favourite films I saw in 2011 I'd include Gilliam's Tideland and Davies' Of Time and The City. However, I think there's a reasonable expectation that professional critics lists are meant for their audience, and perhaps should be geared accordingly, not based on their at times rarefied privilege (or pain) to exalt in the great films (as well as endure the endless dross) before the rest of us.

So, depending on which emphasis Dr. K would like to give his list, based on the films he had a chance to see or the films that we had a chance to see, then he could bump The Artist.

Or maybe I'm just being mindlessly pedantic. All in good company here then...

This got some agreement further down in 103 107 114 and 116 in so far as wanting to exclude The Artist from Kermode's top of 2011 list as it didn't have a proper 2011 release (it had a "platform" release in London on 30th Dec 2011).  Given that sort of feeling about something as purely subjective as one critic's top list, it's not a huge jump to suggest that a similar criteria might be applied to a supposedly rigorously arrived at consensus such as the BAFTA's.  Unfortunately, my own sense of pedantry prohibits me from adding The Artist's nominations to my BAFTA statistics as IMDB does give it the UK release date from December, although clearly it's a grey area I hadn't considered before.

What next?  Well we have the final BAFTA nominations coming up, and I have to find a way to carefully word some letters / emails to BAFTA and most probably to Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, so that they get useful attention.


08 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: Preamble and Longlist

This year I am making a slightly more concerted effort to breathe life into my quibble with BAFTA's bent rule that allows films released after the standard year in question, but which were in the States and so eligible for OSCAR's.  I hate this because I feel that the general public should have a chance to have seen all the films before the nominations, let alone the awards.  They should remember that the B in BAFTA is for British and so should properly reflect the British film audience and release schedule.

In the past years the BAFTA's have cheated their own eligibility requirements, allowing films to be nominated that do not meet all their own criteria.  Let's look at last year's requirements:


Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards year:
1 January to 31 December 2010. Films that open between 1 January and 11 February 2011 inclusive may be 'qualified' by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Tuesday 21 December 2010.

    To be eligible, a feature film must:
* be feature-length, i.e. with a running time exceeding 60 minutes;
* receive its first public exhibition or distribution in the UK as a theatrical release;
* be exhibited publicly to a paying audience within a commercial cinema in the UK for no fewer than seven consecutive days.

Films from all countries are eligible in all categories, with the exception of Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, Short Film and Short Animation which are for British films only.

Almost every year BAFTA have nominated a film that opens on the last day of eligibility, usually two days before the awards.  This means it cannot have satisfied the seven consecutive days proviso by the date of the ceremony.  Although four films for the 2011 Awards opened after 2010, only one fell foul of this requirement:

2011 Latest Open Date 11th Feb, Awards 13th Feb.
True Grit (11 February 2011)

Previous years have seen these films so dishonourably nominated:

2010 Latest Open Date 19th Feb, Awards 21st Feb.
The Lovely Bones (19 February 2010).

2009 Latest Open Date 6th Feb, Awards 8th Feb.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (6 February 2009)
Doubt (6 February 2009)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (13th Feb 2009 released after the eligibility and the awards)

2008 Latest Open Date 8th Feb, Awards 10th Feb.
There Will be Blood (15th February 2008 released after the eligibility and the awards)

This year BAFTA have closed this problematic loophole, by making the eligibility even more flexible.  From 2012 the rules now state:

In order for a film to be valid for consideration its first public exhibition must be in a cinema (rather than on television or online), and it must have a UK theatrical release in a public UK cinema for no fewer than seven consecutive days in the calendar year that corresponds to the upcoming awards. If a film opens between 1 January and the Friday before the Awards in February then it may be eligible as long as it is screened to Academy voting members before a certain date. A film must be feature length, i.e. with a running time exceeding 60 minutes. Films from all countries are eligible in all categories, with the exception of Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, Short Film and Short Animation which are for British films only.
BAFTA: Film Awards Judging Process

This means that films that open up to two days before this year's ceremony only need to be screened to BAFTA's members before a given date and are let off virtually all of the eligibility requirements (apart from the feature length of over 60 minutes).  To be honest, this is probably closer to what they intended with the previous version of the rules, and this change has unmuddied the waters that flowed from their previous language.

The Film BAFTA's were moved from April to February in 2001 to occupy the space between the Golden Globes and OSCAR's.  This is when the rules were changed to allow in films with post-hoc release dates, mainly to give the BAFTA's a supposed relevance in the awards season, after all how could they claim relevance if they could fail to nominate a similar list of films to the Globes and OSCAR's if restricted to niggling things like the UK release dates.  This of course does not make the BAFTA's any more relevant, it merely gives the BAFTA members a chance to second guess the OSCAR's.  This leaves the BAFTA's as a cynical exercise for the distributors to get some free ad time on the allegedly non-promotional BBC, and to use award buzz to flog their films to the UK market.

This becomes extremely apparent when you analyse the longlist nominations.  Of the 65 films garnering 279 longlist nominations 9 (13%) are released in 2012, two just two days before the awards themselves.  Those 9 films have 56 longlist nominations, making up 20% of the longlist nominations.  Of the films properly theatrically released in 2011 a whopping 50% of the longlist nominations are for films receiving their UK DVD release in Q1 2012, right around the February awards ceremony.  This leaves only 30% of the longlist nominations for films released in the UK theatrically in 2011 and not premiering on UK DVD within the first quarter of 2012, of these only 17% are for films with both UK theatre and DVD releases firmly in 2011, the remainder with unconfirmed UK DVD release dates (as of January 8th 2012).

Now there is a slight confluence of chicken/egg poultry family planning here when we consider how the films are put forward, again according to BAFTA:

As long as a film passes the rules of eligibility then it may be entered for the film awards. A film may be qualified for consideration by the films[sic] distributor or producer, or by any Academy voting member. Once the film is submitted then a screen credits form will be required to be completed by the distributor or producer.
So this is very much in the hands of the distributors who determine the release dates as well as having major input into the awards process itself.  When we look at a graph of the longlist nominations by film release month, we may find it hard to believe that any decent films have hit the screens before July.

BAFTA will point out that the longlist does not represent nominations until the members vote in the second round to whittle the up to 15 films in each category down to 5 proper nominations.  Furthermore, longlists are not announced in these categories: Outstanding Debut by a Writer, Director or Producer, Short Film and Short Animation.  So these figures are likely to change, but by how much is to be seen.

Film UK release Nominations
The Iron Lady 06/01/2012 14
Shame 13/01/2012 4
War Horse 13/01/2012 13
Coriolanus 20/01/2012 6
J. Edgar 20/01/2012 7
The Descendants 27/01/2012 7
Carnage 05/02/2012 2
A Dangerous Method 10/02/2012 1
Young Adult 10/02/2012 2

For the 2012 awards year I will attempt to get this point across through online forums, letters to BAFTA, and correspondence with the BBC's various film programmes  Watch this space.

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